Travis Scott: On Tour With Hip-Hop’s King of Chaos
Travis Scott bursts into his dressing room on a scooter, trailing assorted entourage and radiating the rich aroma of good weed. He makes for a catering table lined with Fruit Roll-Ups, Honey Buns, Lucky Charms and – for good measure – two bottles of Don Julio 1942 tequila. He’s at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, about to face a sold-out crowd. “Let’s get this bitch turnt!” he yells at no one in particular, letting the scooter fall to the carpet. Scott’s manager, David Stromberg, brings Scott’s attention to a dry-erase board, tucked behind a curtain, where a basketball play has been diagrammed in marker. Oracle is home to the Golden State Warriors, and Stromberg says that the Cleveland Cavaliers used this space as their locker room during the finals in June. The diagram, titled “BRON ISO,” contains LeBron James–centric directives such as “KYRIE PASS IT” and “JR GET THE FUCK OUT THE WAY.” “This is, like, the last thing Tyronn Lue wrote,” Stromberg says, referring to the Cavs’ coach. Scott, taking it in, laughs hard. “ ’Get the fuck out the way!’ ” he cries.
He’s winding down a 20-show tour opening for Kendrick Lamar. Originally from Houston, Scott rolled into the Bay Area early this morning, following a show in Vancouver. He spent all of today holed up on his bus, he tells me, working on new tracks that might wind up on his next album: “Just chillin’, recording. Formulating a story, the picture I’m trying to paint. It’s fun making music on the road – I got a whole studio bus.” He plops down on a couch, gets lost in his phone. “The energy’s been a little strange show-to-show on this tour,” Stromberg says. “I mean, Travis brings the energy, but there’s been seating at every show. He wants to get his fans onstage and get them to stage-dive – but there’s chairs.” He theorizes that “it’s a numbers thing – I think you can sell more tickets when you do seats than when you do general admission.” Scott says, “I can’t speak to that,” but confirms that he prefers the unmanaged vibe of a big, chair-free pit, where crowds can more readily cut loose: “Pffft,” he says. “I’m never doing a tour with seats again.” “Travis’ fans are a little younger,” Stromberg continues. “Kendrick’s are a little older, and they’re here for” – he throws up air quotes – “ ’real hip-hop.’ ”
Stromberg is drawing a distinction between Lamar’s dense, classicist virtuosity and what Scott does best, which is different: deliver simple, beguiling phrases about partying and drugs in an Auto-Tuned singsong over hard-edged, low-lit beats. It’s a style you hear everywhere in hip-hop these days, from Migos to Future. It’s also a style that Scott – whose debut mixtape, Owl Pharaoh, came out in 2013, the same year he worked behind the scenes with Kanye West on Yeezus – helped pioneer.
Scott has been on a roll ever since. He’s dating Kylie Jenner. (And, it turns out, having a kid with her, according to reports published after our interview.) He has co-written or co-produced songs not only with West but also Rihanna (whom he’s also rumored to have dated) and Madonna. His albums Rodeo and Birds in the Trap Sing Mc-Knight mix pop impulses – honeyed, hypnotic hooks – with irregular structures and droning flows that verge on avant-garde. Both are platinum, and they’ve both produced platinum singles, like the narcotic “Antidote” and the Lamar-assisted “Goosebumps.”